Michael  Nelson

Michael
Nelson

Associate Professor of Political Science

Expertise:

  • Law and Policy
  • Politics & Policy

Focus Areas:

  • American Politics
  • Pennsylvania Politics
  • Politics

About

  • Nelson's research examines the effects of judicial elections, public support for courts in the United States and abroad, and the effects of collegiality on judicial behavior

Michael Nelson is the Jeffery L. Hyde and Sharon D. Hyde and Political Science Board of Visitors Early Career Professor in Political Science and associate professor of political science. He specializes in political institutions, with particular attention to state judicial politics and public evaluations of judicial institutions in the United States and Latin America. Nelson’s research examines the effects of judicial elections, public support for courts in the United States, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and abroad, and the effects of collegiality on judicial behavior.

In The Media

"'From a political science perspective, people have been wedded to the idea that it’s ideology all the way down,' said Michael J. Nelson, one of the study’s authors and a political scientist at Penn State."

"The Kavanaugh confirmation fight 'directly links the Court to the direct political process,' says Michael Nelson, a professor at Penn State. 'That’s the sort of thing that’s kryptonite for the Court.'"

"When political scientists use the word legitimacy, they’re thinking of individuals’ loyalty to a political institution. People obey decisions from institutions or figures they view as legitimate because they feel that they should, not because they fear punishment if they don’t. For example, when teenagers consider their parents’ authority legitimate, they are likely to return home before curfew — even if their parents might be asleep when they get home."

“'If Kavanaugh gets confirmed and then hears a major abortion case, you have this almost perfect storm of liberals getting a decision they don’t like and that being decided with two votes from men who were accused of sexual [wrongdoing]' says Michael Nelson, a political scientist at Penn State who studies public attitudes toward the judiciary. 'That seems to be the sort of thing that could really hurt the Court.'”

"Leaders take it as their duty to accept the Supreme Court's decisions, but will our political climate change that?"

"Our new research shows that because judges tend to cite colleagues with similar backgrounds, the demographic and professional backgrounds of federal judges influence the flow of legal ideas throughout the courts."

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